All About the Bali Tiger

This Relatively Small Tiger Went Extinct Over 50 Years Ago

An illustration of the Bali tiger
The Bali Tiger.

 Eric Bajart

Name:

Bali Tiger; also known as Panthera tigris balica

Habitat:

The Island of Bali in Indonesia

Historical Epoch:

Late Pleistocene-modern (20,000 to 80 years ago)

Size and Weight:

Up to seven feet long and 200 pounds

Diet:

Meat

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Relatively small size; dark orange fur

 

Adapted Perfectly to Its Habitat

Along with two other Panthera tigris subspecies--the Javan Tiger and the Caspian Tiger--the Bali Tiger went completely extinct over 50 years ago. This relatively small tiger (the largest males didn't much exceed 200 pounds) was adapted perfectly to its equally small habitat, the Indonesian island of Bali, a territory roughly the size of Rhode Island.

Considered to Be Evil Spirits

There probably weren't that many Bali Tigers around even when this species was at its peak, and they were regarded distrustfully by the indigenous settlers of Bali, who considered them to be evil spirits (and liked to grind up their whiskers to make poison). However, the Bali Tiger wasn't truly imperiled until the first European settlers arrived on Bali in the late 16th century; over the next 300 years, these tigers were hunted by the Dutch as nuisances or simply for sport, and the last definitive sighting was in 1937 (though some stragglers likely persisted for another 20 or 30 years).

Two Theories About Differences With the Javan Tiger

As you may already have surmised, if you're up on your geography, the Bali Tiger was closely related to the Javan Tiger, which inhabited a neighboring island in the Indonesian archipelago. There are two equally plausible explanations for the slight anatomical differences between these subspecies, as well as their different habitats. Theory 1: the formation of the Bali Strait shortly after the last Ice Age, about 10,000 years ago, split a population of these tigers' last common ancestors, which went on to develop independently over the next few thousand years. Theory 2: only Bali or Java was inhabited by tigers after this split, and some brave individuals swam the two-mile-wide strait to populate the other island.